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Non-stick for induction?

I hate the perception that cast iron is high maintenance, I consider cast iron to be almost maintenance free. I have not only left stuff overnight, I have left dutch ovens with cornbread remains for almost a year (oops).

If there is stuck on food, washing it is as simple as scraping out the big chunks, adding water, bringing to a boil, scraping the remains, then dumping the water, quick dry with paper towel and wiping the still hot pan with oil. Can be done while the next day's lunch is cooking or in 5 - 10 minutes by either of you after the kids go to bed. If nothing stuck to the pan, a quick wipe out with a paper towel, rinse under hot water, wipe with paper towel and wipe with oil. If nothing stuck to the pan, it is faster than cleaning most other pans. It may be more convenient for your wife to wash other pans the regular way, but cast iron is not as high maintenance as many folks think.

To get well seasoned stuff without the having to do it yourself, ask elderly relatives if they have some they no longer use or check tag sales and tell your wife you will take care of them. I really think cast iron is the best for frying, making cornbread and can make great pancakes among other things. Totally worth the few extra seconds/minutes over washing in the sink.

Jan 02, 2010
bchick in Cookware

Can't use cast iron, Won't use non stick, options for omelettes?

From what I understand, cast iron does leech enough iron to be considered "supplemental" iron, which is why it is recommend to people who are anemic. A friend of mine with monthly iron loss issues found she felt better if she had beef (a fairly iron rich food anyway) cooked in cast iron around that time each month.

Jan 02, 2010
bchick in Cookware

Why no cast iron on cooking shows?

Those round cast iron burners are what I want. Grew up with electric coils, big ol' pain in the but to clean if something boiled over, and real scary when the coils died (they explode sometimes). Now we have a glass top that my father insisted on, Mom and I both hate it because we are afraid of breaking it (we like pressure cookers and cast iron, both not recommended by the manufacturer) and because it is black and shiny, it shows every spatter. The old white metal stove with coils didn't show as much dirt as this stupid thing.

Jan 02, 2010
bchick in Cookware

Why no cast iron on cooking shows?

Considering $200 is 2 1/4 days pay for me, or about $10 restaurant meals in my area, I could never justify paying that much for one pan, especially since all I am hearing about copper that is supposed to make it great (in this and a few other discussion where it is compared to cast iron) is how quickly it comes (back) to temperature. My 3 cast iron fry pans and 2 dutch ovens cost under $100 combined. Add in a couple stainless sauce pans, stock pots and baking/broiling trays from a discount store, and I could have all the pans I need for less than the cost of that one copper pot.

It is a matter of priorities and it is all relative. $200 may not be a lot to you, but to many people it is totally unreasonable to spend that much on one item, when there are cheaper alternatives that work at least almost as well. $200 is more than a whole months free spending money for me. To buy a $200 copper pan, I would have to give up 2-3 dinners with friends, a couple of outings for my hobby, and buying anything fun for a month (mostly stuff for my hobby) or so. Not worth it to me, my friends and hobby are my life. I'll stick to inexpensive cookware except for appliances, those usually the extra expense is worth it (KitchenAid mixer, brand name food processor).

Jan 02, 2010
bchick in Cookware

Why no cast iron on cooking shows?

I don't watch a whole lot of the actual cooking shows (many of the hosts/chefs annoy the heck out of me, or cook foods that I am not interested in [too high fat, too fancy for my lifestyle/tastes]), but since I am interested in general food knowledge, I watch Alton Brown's show, "Good Eats" a lot. He uses cast iron some, usually when it is the best tool for the job, and will explain the reasoning behind why he thinks what he is using is the best tool for the job, complete with chemistry stuff many of us never learned in school.

I think part of the problem is some are afraid that using cast iron will scare away all the folks that think it is hard to use, and they would rather use stuff people aren't afraid of, that way people will trust them and buy their cook books, and as someone else mentioned, their special pan sets.

The saute pan flip thing is so silly. I don't understand why TV chefs think it is so great. It may look cool, but it doesn't look like it moves the food in the pan all that efficiently. I'm all about making yummy stuff efficiently. I would much prefer they would use and teach techniques that the home cook should be using.

Jan 02, 2010
bchick in Cookware

Confused about thermal shock and cast iron?

I've never seen one "shattered" by being put in cold water, but I think a friend of mine knows someone who did it, and we do have one in our house that is cracked because someone put it in the sink while it was still very hot and ran cold water into it.

From what I understand, cast iron is like ceramic or glass, it can go *poof* if you do certain things to it, but won't always. The warning to not putting into cold water is because it *can* (but won't always) cause it to crack or shatter. Kinda like the warnings that you sometimes hear about super-heating water in the microwave. I spent years using the micro to boil water for instant rice and such with no problem, and then one day I took water out of the microwave that didn't appear to have even reach boiling, dumped in the rice and had a volcano of water and instant flavored rice. Burned my hand (the one pouring the rice) pretty good and made a huge mess in my dorm room.

Better safe than sorry. There is no good reason to put a hot pan in contact with much colder water. Plenty of methods for cleaning that won't shock the metal.

Jan 02, 2010
bchick in Cookware

Losing faith in cast iron cookware

I am by no means a cast iron expert (I have a friend who rarely cooks with anything else, I frequently go to her for advice), but I can tell you a few things.

First, eggs and risotto are not things that should be cooked in really new cast iron, if they are sticking badly, your pan is not well enough seasoned. Anything that prone to sticking should only be cooked in well seasoned cast iron (the bottom of the pan on really well seasoned stuff feels almost like glass).

Second, cast iron should not be difficult to clean. I never use anything other than water to clean mine (never heard of using salt, and the problem with soap is it removes the seasoning, maybe salt is doing the same thing to yours since you have sticking issues), and mine are not well seasoned at all yet. The way I clean mine is to wipe out the pan with a paper towel, put water in the pan and bring it to a boil and use a spatula to scrape up anything that is sticking to the pan. Dump out the water and repeat if necessary (usually it is not, and I cook eggs with cheese). When the pan is clean, dry it off and apply a thin coat of a neutral oil. If you just used your oven, place the pan in the oven while the oven is cooling. I have accidentally left my (still kinda new) dutch ovens with the remains of cornbread in them for a year (stored in my freezing cold in the winter/broiling hot in the summer barn) and was able to bring them back to good condition while camping - scrapped out the remains, boiled and scrapped, boiled again, wiped out with paper towel and coated with oil while still warm. Another friend (not the expert) buys nasty, rusty, poorly cared for cast iron at tag sales, strips them with soap and steel wool, seasons them and either uses them or gives them as gifts.

I've never used my dutch ovens at home, they mostly get used for camping, but that is because I don't tend to make roast and stews much and that is the best way to use them at home. When camping I use them for baking cakes (using a trivet and cake pans, I make chocolate b-day cakes for several people that have birthdays while we are on our annual trip), making cornbread (right in the dutch oven, gets a beautiful crust) or making stuffing (gonna try it right in the pan next time, last time used foil and it didn't get crispy on the outside like I like it), all with coals.

When I was growing up, the cast iron were the only small fry pans in our house. If I can't cook a hot dog on a real fire (wood or charcoal), a cast iron fry pan is my second choice. Anything that you want crusty on the outside, cast iron is the best way to cook it. Well seasoned cast iron is what I learned to scramble eggs in.

I don't tend to do fancy stove-top cooking much, since I am usually cooking for one (no fun doing something fancy for just me) or 100 (need to use regular ovens and huge stock-pots for that), so I can't give you tips on pan sauces and such, but I would hate to see you give up on cast iron. Give the cast iron another chance. Be gentle with it and it will become your friend. Get it well seasoned and keep it well seasoned. Get your hands on some cookbooks with early American recipes (cast iron was very common throughout much of our history) and learn through these how to best work with cast iron, or cookbooks especially for working with cast iron - even the cast iron book from the "...for Dummies" series.

Jan 02, 2010
bchick in Cookware

What is your favorite new item of cookware this year?

I don't make much money and am trying to save for a condo or house of my own, so my favorite purchase are lower end than what most people here have named, but 2 of them are fun and one I really needed.

I bought a fondue pot for a Christmas party Yankee Swap, and was very happy to end up getting it back. Just used it for chicken taco dip at a New Year's party. It was great for making the right amount and keeping it warm at the party.

I bought a creme brulee kit at Target. I haven't used it yet, but a friend used it to caramelize sugar on cheese tarts when we cooked for 128 people together last month. The tarts were beautiful. I can't wait to play with it.

The needed item was a knife set that I redeemed credit card reward points for. It is only Farberware, but better than the knives I would have had to use from my medieval group's kitchen gear (those are all super-dull and we haven't had a chance to sharpen or replace them yet). These fit my hand well and are for now sharp enough. I don't know how long they will last once I get my own place and use them daily.

Jan 02, 2010
bchick in Cookware

Seriously Now -- Which countertop appliances do you leave out on your counter?

I used to think electric can openers were silly, but my hands are slightly arthritic and my sister gave my mother the Black & Decker Gizmo as a Christmas gift one year. It is great. No sore hands when I have to open a bunch of cans. I will definitely get one when I get my own place.

Our counter space is very limited, too many doorways off our kitchen, so the Gizmo is one of the few items on the counter (really should be mounted under the cabinet, to make a little room, but I don't think it would fit over any of the other things on the counter except the toaster oven and that would be a fire hazard). On the right side of the sink there is no outlet, so the dish drainer sits there, taking up most of the space on that side. On the left side, the counter turns, and the micro is shoved back into the corner on an angle, behind that runs the multi-outlet strip so we can plug the other stuff in. Next is the coffee maker (something my mother and I could both do without, but my father wanted it), a knife block that my father made over 30 years ago, Gizmo sits in front of that and the last thing is the toaster oven. That is the end of the counter space.

What I would have on the counter if I had my own place with enough counter space:
Micro - I hate built-ins, especially over the stove. I am short and clumsy.
Toaster oven
Kitchen-Aid mixer
Food Processor
Mini FP/chopper
Knife block
Canisters with flour, sugar, brown sugar and such
Next to the stove would be a canister with spoons, spatulas, tongs and such
A TV (I like TV for background while doing other stuff, like cooking)
A Gizmo
A teakettle would live on the stove

Easily accessible would be:
Fondue pot
Waffle maker
Electric griddle
Hand mixer
Immersion blender (great for making a single milkshake)
Electric kettle (not likely to be used at home, I take it to hotels on road trips because I hate using the in-room coffee pots for water for tea or cocoa)
Dish drainer (for the non-dishwasher safe items)
Rice Cookers (yes, more than one, because they will mostly be used for cooking for HUGE groups of people)
Old fashioned hand-crank meat grinder (used mostly to make cranberry relish for Thanksgiving, but I'm sure I can find other uses some day)

I am a bit of a gadget junkie, but having the right tool for the job makes cooking more convenient and fun.

Jan 02, 2010
bchick in Cookware

Do onion goggles work?

I just found out today this product exists. I am very excited to buy a pair. I have tried safety glasses, wrap around sunglasses and swim goggles, each had their issues. Safety glasses and the sunglasses let enough fumes in the side to be not completely helpful, swim goggles needed to be wet before putting them on to prevent fogging. I find refrigerating the onions doesn't help me a bit, and leaving the root intact is minimally helpful. Haven't tried the fan thing, but often I am doing my big cooking (dinner for 80+ people in my medieval re-creation group, or while camping with 30 or so of those folks) somewhere other than my own kitchen, so a fan might not be practical (no outlet near the chopping area, something extra to bring, no electricity while camping). The special goggles seem like a great idea to me, easy to store at home, easy to bring with me when cooking elsewhere, quick to put on and not nearly as silly looking (or expensive) as a full-face safety shield with respirator to keep the fumes away.

It is not just the number of onions being cut in my case; it is the severity of the sensitivity. I used to be able to get through one small onion okay, then it was just scallions that I was okay with, now even a few scallions make me tear up. If I have to do several onions, I end up having to take a break from cooking to get my hands completely clear of onion scent (baking soda, lemon juice and soap) and then spend several minutes rinsing my eyes. Having to take that long break is a pain, especially if I have to take the break before I am even done cutting the onions. Luckily, last time I cooked for a large group (128 people), I didn't have to chop any of the 15 lbs of onion used in the menu, because my kitchen helpers did all of that.

As far as them being a uni-tasker as someone mentioned, I can see using them for other stuff, like protecting your eyes while frying (spattered grease on the cheek is painful, spattered grease in the eye could be a life altering injury). I can actually see using them for some other household tasks that don't require actual safety glasses (I doubt most of these are impact rated) - cleaning the shower (grout cleaner in the eye, anyone?, dusting high places...)

Jan 02, 2010
bchick in Cookware

Gender Bending in Restaurant Restrooms

This past September I was traveling with friends and we stopped at a rest area to use the bathroom. The women's was locked because it was being cleaned and the port-a-potties in the lot were also locked or just jammed. By the time we got back to the regular bathroom area, there were about 10-15 women waiting, many with somewhat desperate looks on their faces.

Some guy came out of the men's saw us all standing there and asked what was going on. He then proceeded to check to confirm the men's was unoccupied and stood guard while all of the women used the men's multi-stalled bathroom. He made a bunch of women very happy that day.

Jan 02, 2010
bchick in Features